Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vegan MoFo Review: Gardein Buffalo Wings


I've never had buffalo wings. I became a vegetarian before I started enjoying spicy foods. So, I sort of understood the dynamic of buffalo wings, celery and blue cheese dressing, while still not really getting it. I  mean, rich creamy dressing; hot, tangy wings; crisp, crunchy, but sort of bland celery sticks? I get the concept of all the disparate parts coming together in glorious harmony, but I'm not a huge fan barbeque sauce or Worcestershire, or A1 or siracha, so didn't think I'd be a fan of buffalo sauce and I never liked blue cheese.

When JD and I saw the new line of Gardein products our local Target was carrying, I got excited for two reasons, first, Gardein is awesome, and I like the crispy tenders, which had not previously been available anywhere in my neighborhood, and second, specifically vegan foods items being readily available and easily accessible? THIS IS THE VEGAN REVOLUTION, PEOPLE. My Target also has two kinds of tofu, multiple brands and styles of non dairy milks including Silk's refrigerated soy, almond AND coconut milks, and Earth Balance, which they sell for about a dollar less than any of the health food stores in my area.

So, when I pointed them out to JD, he immediately went for buffalo wings, to my dismay. When I expressed my misgivings, he suggested I get the BBQ wings. Does he even know me?  I explained I wanted the crispy tenders, and, based on his past experience with Gardein, suggested we get all three. We didn't really have that much space in our freezer, and I didn't want to have that much processed (and BBQy) stuff taking up what little space we did have, so we settled for the buffalo and crispy tenders styles.

A few weeks ago we went to Wimberly and found a brewery that had some amazing hefeweizen, of which we promptly bought a growler. We had decided to have a beer and pizza night, so I suggested we add these wings to the menu.

I cooked them up according to the stove top directions, and like most of Gardein's products, they were very simple to prepare. I was a little worried, because the package said to saute and brown each side until crispy, but also warned against burning and mine didn't really seem to get crispy, since they didn't have any breading and weren't coated like the Mandarin Chick'n. I let some of them get crispy, but this made very dark, and I feared they were burnt and therefore ruined. With the heat turned off, and the sauce "setting" on the wings, I cut up some celery into sticks. I took a nibble of one celery stick and wondered if I wouldn't end up liking them more than the wings.

I told JD they were ready, and he replied, "You know the best thing about vegan wings?"

"What?" I asked, thinking to myself, no mechanically separated chicken? No battery cages full of hens?

" No bones or ligaments!" he said. I can get behind that answer, though I remember my first few vegetarian months, when I actually sort of missed the structure bones gave food.

So, onto the most important thing, how did they taste? I liked them! The texture was maybe a little too soft or not chewy enough for me, but I liked the sauce more than I thought I would. The sauce was a bit hot, but with the crisp, fresh, cook celery, and the bright, bubbly beer, it worked. And even though it seemed like there was not enough sauce included, and the wings didn't seem coated enough, I actually preferred, and found myself seeking out the wings that had less sauce. I also found myself looking for the crispiest wings. I still remember Morningstar Farms' Spicy Chick'n wings, which contain egg, and I used to love in my ovo lacto days, but these are good for fun, easy, fast finger food. If I watched football, these would be perfect football food.

JD liked them, and would eat them again, but said he'd doctor the sauce, since, while it had heat, it was not tangy or Tabasco-y enough to really compare to buffalo sauce. "It was more like spicy barbecue sauce."

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